Dr. Patrick Williams Expert General Dentist Details What to Expect from Common Restorative Dental Procedures

September 11, 2018, Langley Dental Practice

Most people can expect to need at least one dental restoration in their lifetime. Below, Dr. Patrick Williams, an accomplished general dentist, outlines what you can expect if you need a filling, an inlay or onlay, a dental crown, a fixed bridge, or a root canal.

When your tooth develops decay, your dentist must remove the decay promptly to prevent further deterioration and possible loss of the tooth. This is because cavities cause small holes in the teeth that only grow larger if subject to further decay. You may have received metal fillings as a child and dread the thought of adding more metal to your smile. With composite fillings, also known as tooth-colored fillings, no one has to know you had any dental work performed. The filling material blends in with your natural teeth for a seamless appearance.

Your dentist uses a dental drill to remove the decayed portion of your tooth. He or she then cleans your tooth and prepares it for the procedure by injecting a numbing agent in the gum tissue surrounding it. Next, your dentist applies the tooth-colored filling material on the tooth receiving treatment. It will feel wet and perhaps a bit cold at first. The next step is to use a curing light, so the filling material hardens onto your tooth. For the last step, your dentist may need to remove excess filling material from around your tooth.

Inlays & Onlays:
Sometimes a simple filling isn't enough to cover the entire area of decay. In this case, your dentist will recommend that you receive an inlay or onlay. An inlay covers part of the chewing surface of the tooth while an onlay covers the whole thing. To prepare your customized inlay or onlay, your dentist first takes an impression of the decayed tooth. He or she sends that to a laboratory and fits you with a temporary restoration until it comes back in about two weeks.

Your dentist uses a strong dental cement to secure your inlay or onlay in place. It can be either porcelain or gold to create your new restoration, depending on your preference. Porcelain is somewhat stronger than gold and matches the natural shade of teeth more closely. A dental crown is typically a better option when you have extensive tooth decay. Your dentist will let you know the status of the decay and what he or she feels would work best to treat it. The important thing is to keep your natural teeth whenever possible.

A dental crown fits over the chewing surface of a tooth to correct common oral health issues. Some of these include extensive decay, cracks, chips, discoloration, or oddly shaped teeth. Before your dentist can place the crown, he or she needs to take an impression of the tooth in question. The next step is to forward it to a dental laboratory where a technician creates a customized restoration based on your personal needs. In the meantime, your dentist removes some of the top portion of your tooth to make room for the new dental crown to fit. You receive a temporary crown for approximately two weeks.

A dental crown provides your tooth with the reinforcement it needs for chewing. Like fillings, it's possible to use composite resin when creating the crown, so it blends in naturally with your other teeth. Some people opt for gold crowns on back teeth, which can be great option because they will not chip. No matter which style of crown you choose, you can speak, smile, and eat confidently again after placement. However, you shouldn't subject the crowned tooth to unnecessary stress like chewing ice cubes or grinding your teeth. This can help it last up to 10 years or even longer.

Fixed Bridges:
You may think that missing a single tooth or a few consecutive teeth is not a big deal, especially when it's near the back of your mouth. However, missing teeth are much more than a cosmetic concern. Not having all your natural teeth makes it more difficult for you to chew your food properly, speak with articulation, and causes a permanent shift in the alignment of your teeth.

Improper alignment happens when the teeth remaining in your mouth start shifting towards the open spot. A sunken appearance in your face and pain in your jaws and joints are all common with missing teeth as well. Fixed bridges provide you with permanent tooth replacement without the hassle commonly associated with dentures.

The first step in getting a dental bridge is for your dentist to take an impression of the gum area where you no longer have a natural tooth. He or she sends the mold to a laboratory where a technician will make a customized bridge. Next, your dentist prepares the teeth to the immediate left and right of the missing teeth to act as support for your new bridge. Lastly, he or she attaches the replacement tooth to the bridge and secures it in your mouth with dental cement. For resin-bonded bridges, your dentist places supportive metal brackets behind the neighboring teeth to hold the replacement teeth in place.

Root Canal Therapy:
Each of your teeth contains pulp that supports its nerves and blood supply. Bacteria can invade the pulp through a small tooth fracture or extensive tooth decay. The pulp becomes infected when this happens, which can cause pain and several other symptoms. These include:
•    Gum tenderness
•    A change in pain level when you stand up or lie down
•    Increased sensitivity to hot and cold food and beverages
•    Headaches
•    Pus on your gum line 
•    Sac formations
•    Throbbing in the affected tooth
•    Pain that radiates to your jaw

Patients sometimes fear root canals because they’ve heard the procedure is painful. The reality is a root canal is no more painful or uncomfortable than any other dental procedure, and the alternative of not getting one ensures more pain in the future. When you get a root canal, your dentist removes the infected tooth pulp and places a rubber sealant in its place. He or she then covers the tooth with a crown. This protects bacteria from invading the tooth again and causing another infection. Root canals are incredibly successful at saving teeth that patients may have lost otherwise.

These are just five procedures you may need at some point to ensure that you retain the best possible oral health. Don't hesitate to ask your dentist to clarify anything about your specific process that you may not understand. 



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